Figure skater Starr Andrews made history by becoming the second Black woman to earn a medal at the U.S. Nationals in 35 years, reports the Washington Post. The last Black woman to accomplish the feat was Olympic bronze medalist Debi Thomas who captured the gold medal at the nationals in 1988.

After two days of competition at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, Andrews posted a score of 188.24 which put her in fourth place, receiving the pewter medal. She stood on the podium alongside champion Isabeau Levito, silver medalist Bradie Tennell, and third-place finisher Amber Glenn. 

She expressed her excitement about making history in an interview after her performance.

“To be able to be the next African American woman to stand on a podium is amazing,” Andrews said.

Andrews’ success story is one filled with many obstacles that she had to navigate to reach this moment, She had to overcome ageism (21 is considered “old” in figure skating), several injuries and she was diagnosed with a heart ailment which resulted in her having surgery last spring.

Proving her determination to excel, she won a silver medal at Skate Canada after having surgery in October.

As one of the few Black figure skaters in the sport, Andrews is an inspiration for Black girls. She receives letters and videos from across the country that she says “are so cute.”

“I can’t believe I’m the person they saw, I’m the person that wanted to make them start skating,” she said. “And I think that that’s so amazing. And I’m so glad that I can be that person.”

Along with hard work and years of practice, Andrews was destined to shine in the sport because figure skating runs in her family. Her mother, Toshawa, was a former skater, who also worked as her coach. Suffering from her own physical challenges, Toshawa is battling a microvascular disease, a heart condition that has called her to have 12 heart attacks and a stroke. 

“Throughout all of it, she’s put a smile on her face,” Andres said of her mother. “And I think that she’s such an incredibly strong woman and person, and to be able to almost die a couple times and be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to take it to the rink’ even though she barely can function is incredible to me and just shows how strong and how supportive she is.”

After Friday’s free skate, Andrews was named the U.S. women’s team’s first alternate behind Levito, Tennell, and Glenn for the world championships in March in Saitama, Japan.

Although she didn’t get the medal she wanted, winning the pewter was a tremendous reward for her years of dedication to her craft.

“It’s never going to be an easy road [in skating],” she said. “There’s ups and downs, and ... you have to take and make the best out of it. That’s how you become a great athlete, and [it] helps you in regular life as well. So be patient, because the sport is definitely a roller coaster.”

Following another heart procedure, she plans to compete in the 2026 Winter Olympics.